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Winter house plant care: keep your house in the green with Teresa Soule.

The winter months can be very hard on your houseplants, as anyone who bas indoor plants can attest. Around February, some plants take on a sickly looking appearance: droopy or crunchy with brown or yellow foliage. They become spindly, with lots of stem and small leaves. It becomes a battle to keep them alive, let alone lush. So what should you do? Give up on plants in the winter? Garden only in the summer? Indoor plants require different growing conditions in the winter and with a little thought about the types of plants you have, you can have beautiful plants that not only survive, but thrive!

All plants have several requirements that need to be met: temperature, humidity, watering, fertilization, and lighting. Temperature problems can easily be fixed. Most plants, while they do enjoy a slight flux in temperature, need a pretty stable environment. If you keep your house above 75 degrees during the day and then turn off the heat at night, you can do your plants a lot of harm. Try putting your plants in a seldom used room that keeps a nearly constant temperature or keeping your house at a constant temperature Of 65 to seventy degrees. If you keep your plants on a windowsill, remove them at night. The panes of the window become very cold and can freeze the leaves of your plant. Or better yet, keep them at least six inches from the window. This way they have the benefit of the sun and are a safe distance from the freezing and frosting panes.

Temperature and humidity go hand in hand. Once the temperature drops below 67 degrees, there is a great loss of air humidity. This results in brown, crunchy leaves. Even When the temperature is above 67, if there is very little humidity in the house, you will also see brown leaves. There are several ways to avoid this problem. Misting them several times a week will help maintain the moisture level. Make sure the water is at room temperature. Keep your plants grouped together to conserve moisture. Do not put your plants on or next to your heater or radiator, this will greatly increase the amount of water each plant loses. Or try the terrarium technique of keeping your plants on stones or pebbles in an open-topped fish tank. Keep a small amount of water, in the bottom of the tank, enough to cover the stones.

Another way to keep humidity constant is to water consistently, but not constantly, with tepid water. You will not be watering your plants as much as you did during the summer months. If your plant normally needs water twice a week, gradually cut its water back to once a week. For cactuses and other succulents, only water every other week. If your plants look droopy, you are watering too much!

At the end of summer, as fall was approaching, you should have begun to cut back on the amount of fertilizer you gave your plants. Now, in the middle of winter, it is recommended not to fertilize your plants at all. Fertilizing at this stage in the plants' growing cycle will result in spindly plants: long stems with small weak growth. You might also notice the leaves of your plants will bc burned-looking at the tips.

If you notice spindly growth and are not fertilizing your plants, your problem could be lighting. Try to put all your plants in south-facing windows for maximum light exposure and intensity (remember the six-inch rule!). Even if you are putting your high light plants in the window, they still might need supplemental lighting. This will be evidenced by the spindly growth mentioned earlier. Winter light is weak. The rays aren't as strong nor do they last as long as summer light rays. It is worthwhile to invest in high quality full spectrum lights. When buying your lights, make sure they are full spectrum--these lights best mimic the sun and will ensure the Strongest growth. Poor quality plant lights will only. encourage weak growth. Your plants will grow fast towards the light but they will have small leaves. Put the lights on a timer to mimic regular daylight hours. High-light plants need eight to ten hours of direct light and medium-light plants need four to six hours of light; however, they can be further away from the lights than those hight-light plants. Low-light plants need four to six hours of indirect light. Just make sure you don't place the lights too close to the plants, as the light can bum the leaves. If the plant lights are the only source of light your plants are receiving, add an additional three hours of light time for each plant.

It is possible to have healthy plants during the winter. It just takes a little more effort and thought. Keep an eye on your plaints so if a problem begins, you can catch it before it is too late. Good luck and happy growing!

Resources:

The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual : Essential Gardening Know-How for Keeping (Not Killing) More Than 160 Indoor Plants by Barbara Pleasant Successful Houseplants by Andrew Clinch How to Have Happy Healthy Houseplants by Peter McHoy Houseplants & Indoor Gardening by Julie B. Davis The Complete Guide to Indoor Gardening by Jenny Raworth Complete Houseplant Handbook by Peter McHoy

Teresa Soule is the editorial manager for New Life Journal.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Natural Arts
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:DEPT: digging in
Author:Soule, Teresa
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Words:898
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